‘Plankie’ school a safety risk

2019-09-10 06:00
This is one of the structures that Surrey Primary School principal expresses concern about. PHOTO: siphesihle notwabaza

This is one of the structures that Surrey Primary School principal expresses concern about. PHOTO: siphesihle notwabaza

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It has been 20 years since Surrey Primary School was hit by a tornado.

Staff members say they cannot help but feel fearful sometimes, thinking that history might repeat itself.

The incident, which happened in August 1999, caused enormous damage to the school’s property. It propelled Thabo Mbeki, former president of South Africa, and Kader Asmal, then education minister, to pay the school a visit.

According to the school’s principal, Imtiaz Adams, nine classrooms were damaged, as well as the administration building, the computer room, the library and the toilets. It did not only affect the school, but other parts of Gugulethu and Manenberg.

While the damage was repaired and some of the buildings were rebuilt, the fear remains that if a similar natural disaster would happen again, the prefab buildings would not withstand the impact.

“It was quite a difficult time for us as the school. It was chaotic, people were running around. It was also a real test for us because we did not know if the children would return to school,” he says.

To his surprise, the learners all returned. But their wish is to get a new school as the current buildings were badly affected by the tornado.

He says the school is one of the best-performing ones in the area and getting a new school would serve as a pat on the back for the staff who work tirelessly. In 2010, he came second in the teacher’s awards, in the category of excellence in primary leadership, nationally.

His deputy principal, Shuddier Dalvie shares his sentiments. He says they try hard not to think about the incident and focus on teaching the learners. “Our wish is to get a new school. (Here) You are always waiting for the second tornado and your prayer is always that it happens on a weekend when the kids are not here,” says Dalvie.

He also attests to his colleague’s statement about the school doing well.

According Bronagh Hammond, communications director for the provincial department of education, the school received maintenance after the incident. She also admitted the school is a “plankie school” made with prefab materials. She agrees the school needs to be replaced in its entirety.

“The school is currently on our plans for replacement in 2023,” she revealed.

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